Thursday, March 18, 2010

my thoughts on the devils in the NCAA tourney...

So all of the pundits are saying Duke got a ridiculously soft draw in the south, that the NCAA committee must not have really looked at the bracket, and that it is is totally unbalanced. Well I'm here to tell you...

they are all completely right.

We have by far the easiest bracket, and our most difficult game in the whole region could be our second (against either Cal or Lou though I think Cal is more likely to give us trouble) if things break our way. Our first round game should be a laugher, but I expect either UofL or Cal to give us a little bit of a scare (think in the game with 7 minutes left to go) before our ball control and free throw shooting win the day late. Expect something like a 12 pt win that felt more like a 6 pt win in the second round. We are a much more talented team with more size and experience than either of our potential second round matchups. But our poor shooting and lack of post scoring should keep the game closer than the fans will like. But let's go ahead and jump to the second weeked because that's where things get interesting.

Looking at the top seeds in our region you have a 2 seed in Nova, 3 seed in Baylor, 4 seed in Purdue, and a 5 seed in Texas A&M. Right away we can discount Purdue's chances of making noise because without Hummel they will be fortunate just to make it to the second round. If they happen to make it out of the first weekend I would be ecstatic playing them as we should pound them on the boards and have a significant edge at every guard position.

I am not as concerned with A&M as some, though I do fully expect to play them in the sweet sixteen. The reason they don't scare me is that they don't do anything particularly well or provide us with any difficult matchups. They are a solid above average but unspectacular team in every regard. They shoot and rebound a little better than average, and have an ok defense. They are certainly a solid team, but they don't have one single weapon (player or offensive style etc) that they can exploit to a large advantage. If we play a steady A- game we should be able to take them.

Nova also doesn't worry me as much as you would think. Granted they beat us bad in last year's tourney, but that was a very very different Duke team that played its D game against a very different Nova team that played its A+ game. I left that game (which I watched in person) fully believing that nova was a better team than us BUT ALSO they are only a slightly better team and that sweet sixteen game was an aberration. This year given what I know of nova (great offense poor defense struggles to rebound against bigger teams and gets worn down late) I think we actually match up very well with them. And barring all of their guards catching fire (which could happen) I think we take them out in the elite eight.

But I think this scenario is really not that interesting because I really don't see Nova getting past Baylor. Which leads me to the real road block in our bracket and the team that Duke fans should be scared of: Baylor.

First and foremost Baylor is a better team with a better resume than Nova. Add to that the fact that an elite game against them would basically be a home game for them (in Houston) and it is by far our toughest matchup in the region. But the main reason Baylor scares me is because they have the speed and strength in the post to give us difficulties. First an analysis of Duke's strengths in the post:

Against slower post players our post depth will give us a definite advantage, as our guys have more fouls to give, will be fresher off the bench, and are able to play in transition better. We also have an advantage against teams like Nova, Louisville, and A&M that simply don't have the size to matchup with us on the boards. People often mistake our lack of scoring in the post to mean that Duke is weak in the post. But what they are failing to realize is that a more telling statistic is rebounding. We out rebound opponents on both ends of the floor, and while those O rebounds don't always lead to quick scores they very often lead to our favorite weapon the kick out 3pter. Coach K's man-to-man D style also offers a lot of help in the post so guys that can't score quickly tend to find two 6'10"+ guys in their grill. Time and time again you would see big men get the ball down low against Duke and most often their best case scenario was going to the line. Between Zoubs, Thomas, the Plumlees, and Singler we offer a lot of strong and long help that tends to prevent easy points in the paint.

So after all of that why should we be worried about Baylor? Because Baylor has forwards that are big and strong, but also FAST. That can hurt us in a couple of ways. First, quick scorers in the post can get off shots before help defense can arrive. The greatly negates the strength of our smothering overplaying defensive style, and may result in our post guys giving up easy baskets or having to commit a lot of fouls. This is what Georgetown did a great job of exploiting both this year and in 2006. The second way in which speed kills in the post is through negating our rebounding advantage. Our bigs do a fantastic job of boxing out on both ends of the court. Often on defense you'll see Zoubs and Thomas put a body on a guy and the ball will just fall to Scheyer or Smith. However against quick big men it is much harder to put a body on them and many more rebounds become fifty fifty propositions. While I know our hustle and effort won't be lacking, the baylors edge in quickness could definitely result in more of these rebounds going their way. Also in those scenarios we often end up committing stupid fouls. Duke is in big trouble if zoubek and thomas have to sit the bench late in the game with foul trouble. More importantly our offense struggles because we rely so much on second chance points. We're one of the worst shooting teams in the NCAA tourney field this year, and without an O-rebouding advantage our points per possession will definitely drop. It's important to note that the +/- stats on our bigs suggest that the Plumlees are a poor substitue for our experienced seniors (Thomas and Zoubek). Meaning that while it's great to have them for depth we should be concerned if foul trouble results in them being in for crunch time minutes.

So how do we beat Baylor? First and foremost we need to shoot well. As the UNC game attests, when this Duke team shoots well we are nigh unstoppable. Second we need our seniors to play smart disciplined basketball. Zoubek and Thomas are going to get beat some in the post and aren't going to be able to dominate the boards like they did in much of the ACC. But they can't start committing stupid fouls trying to gain an edge or steal a rebound. We have to have them in the game for defense at the end, and it would be better if the Plumlees are coming in protecting leads to give them a breather and not to buy time because of foul trouble. And finally we need Smith and Singler to attack the rim. Our offense is most potent when Duke tries to go at it from the wings and force help defense from their bigs giving us four ways to score: on the initial drive, by going to the foul line, by a big putting back an offensive rebound, or opening up outside shots for other guards. These are all things that we are fully capable of doing, and if we play to potential we are a favorite over every team in our region.

So I see us going to the final four. I've changed my prediction from the other day, as I think we have more like a 35% chance of reaching the final four. If we make it there I'll gladly right another epic post about how we deal with potential matchups.

so that isn't going to help you fill out your bracket but these thoughts might:
- respect UTEP and BYU
- New Mexico is drastically overseeded
- don't buy the hype on WVU going all the way
- Kansas is clearly the best team in the country
- Wisconsin is a sleeping giant
- Murray St should make things interesting
- Siena-Purdue is a pick'em
- Kansas St is not a lock to get out of the weekend



1 comment:

JC said...

Ah, but you forgot about the possibility of Baylor losing, as my bracket has St. Mary's doing so. ;-)